One officer was killed and two others injured Monday morning while responding to a traffic accident in Whittier, California.

Police say the suspect was involved in a traffic accident near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street. After rear-ending another car while driving a stolen vehicle, he approached the driver and helped to push the car to the side of a road around the corner from the scene of the accident.

When the three Whittier officers arrived on scene and approached the suspect, he pulled a gun from his waistband and began to shoot at close range.

“When they get him out of the car, they go to pat him down for weapons, they can see he’s got tattoos all over his face and all over his neck,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Lt. John Corina said.

The 26-year-old suspect who took the life of Officer Keith Boyer is a known gang member – paroled only 10 days earlier.

“It seems like a simple traffic accident and next thing they know they’re in a gunfight,” Corina said, adding that “you never know when you respond to a call, what you are going to run into.”

Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper broke down in tears recounting Boyer, whom he described as a close friend and beloved member of the department. He said Boyer was a mentor to others in the department and had recently talked about retiring.

“He was the best of the best,” Piper said tearfully during a Monday afternoon news conference. “This is an unbelievably senseless tragedy.”

Piper said the shooting suspect, whose name has not been made public, was released from custody early. He blamed the early release on a series of new laws designed to reduce incarcerations in California.

The chief also said Boyer’s killing showed how California’s laws make the streets less safe.

“We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” he said.

Officer Boyer was a 27-year veteran of the department and is survived by several children. Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said his death marked the first fatal shooting of a police officer in more than 37 years.

“This is a very sad day for our officers, the families involved, the Whittier Police Department and our community,” Vinatieri said. “But we’re pulling together. And we’re going to take care of these families and we’re going to take care of this police department.”

Hundreds gathered at the Whittier Police Station last night in a candlelight vigil for Officer Boyer. The other officer was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and is in stable condition.

The suspect, who was also shot in the incident, is expected to survive.

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